Goodman recalls his time of service

Randolph Goodman

‘It’s a wonderful day’
You knew any day could be your last

Editor’s note: Randolph Goodman, who survived his time in Vietnam, isn’t among those we honor on Memorial Day, but this feature, first published in 2013, tell of his history of close calls. 

Attend almost any civic function in San Marcos and soon or later, you’ll hear, “It’s a wonderful day!” booming across the room.

The man behind the voice, and an ever-present smile, is Randolph Goodman.

Born and raised in Austin, Goodman traveled the world at least three times over before settling in Hays County after retiring from the U.S. Navy.

“After high school graduation, I had started attending college in Austin in 1968,” Goodman said. “I wanted to be a history teacher. But with the assassination of Robert Kennedy and all the stuff in Vietnam, I joined the Navy in July, going on active duty in September of ‘68.”

Goodman was sent to boot camp in San Diego and four months later requested assignment “on board any ship bound for Vietnam.”

He got his wish and left on the assault cargo ship USS Washburn as a 19-year-old boat engineer on an LCM (landing craft mechanized), where he routinely dropped off cargo and troops on the beaches.

“I was there for six months and when my ship was ordered back to the United States, I submitted a request to go back to Vietnam,” Goodman said. “This time, I went to Da Nang an the Naval support facility.”

This photo is from Goodman's service in Vietnam. PHOTOS COURTESY OF RANDOLPH GOODMAN

It was during this year-long deployment that Goodman, under fire almost daily, adopted his now famous phrase, “It’s a wonderful day.”

“You knew any day could be your last,” he said of that time. “I remember one day when we were running to take cover in bunkers during enemy artillery shelling. The bunker next to the one I dove in got a direct hit and everyone was killed. Makes you think. So many things that have made my character were developed during my deployment — the love of life, doing the best that I can, being willing to sacrifice myself and my faith in God. Today I am the ‘It’s a wonderful day’ guy.”

Goodman took part in five campaigns while in Vietnam and received the Presidential Unit citation and Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, among others.

After leaving Vietnam, he was next assigned to the USS Henley, a destroyer based in Norfolk, Virginia, traveling up and down the East Coast as well as to the Caribbean islands. Then came tours at Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and recruiting for the Navy in Oklahoma City.

“Being a recruiter opened my eyes to public relations and I found my next calling in life,” he recalled.

Next it was a tour at Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean territory, where the now Chief Petty Officer was assigned as a special services officer.

“One night I was assigned as the command duty officer and our surface to air radar panned the ocean surface and viewed what appeared to be boats coming ashore. Well, we went to General Quarters (battle stations) and while I took over the Quarter Deck the base commander took over the airfield,” Goodman said. “It turned out to be coral heads appearing at low tide and cooler heads prevailed. But after that we nicknamed the night “Attack of the Coral Heads,” he laughed.

Goodman in Cuba. 

Never giving up on his dream to finish college, Goodman took courses as he could during his Naval career and after 14 years, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a double major in history and political science while assigned to the naval air station in nearby Grand Prairie.

“I retired from the Navy after 20 years and came back to Central Texas,” he said. “I started a new career in education, first with Capital City Trade and Technical School as a career development director.”

During that time, Goodman came to the attention of Gary Job Corps, and after repeated attempts to get him to come check out the campus, he obliged.

“They offered to pay for lunch if I’d come see their place,” he recalled. “So I did. And I felt something when I saw the students and the school’s mission. I knew this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life because I saw in the kids myself at age 16 to 17.”

He joined Gary in December of 1992 as a placement specialist and eventually mmoved to the role of public information officer and then business community liaison.

He was honored by the Texas Legislature for his community service in 2013, based on a long list of activities. He has held every office in the San Marcos Lions Club, served on the boards of the Hays County Food Bank, the San Marcos Educational Foundation, the Heart of Texas Choir, Hays County Crime Stoppers and and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

Twice named Ambassador of the Year by the San Marcos Chamber of commerce, Goodman has served on numerous committees for that organization. He also continues to take an active role in the Rotary Club, National Council of La Raza, the Rural Capital Area Workforce Development and San Marcos Manufacturing Association.

“But the thing I’m most proud of is the day my first-grade sweetheart, Eva, married me,” Goodman said. That was 46 years ago.

San Marcos Daily Record

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